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Firegirl Hardcover – June 6, 2006


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 670L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (June 6, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316011711
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316011716
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.2 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,095,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-7–Tom, a seventh grader, tells about the arrival of Jessica, a new student who was badly burned in a fire and is attending St. Catherine's while she gets treatments at a local hospital. The students in Tom's class are afraid of her because of her appearance but little by little he develops a friendship with her that changes his life. Through realistic settings and dialogue, and believable characters, readers will be able to relate to the social dynamics of these adolescents who are trying to handle a difficult situation. The students who shy away from Jessica are at a loss as to what to say. Tom begins to look beyond her exterior and realizes that his life will not be the same after she leaves, just three weeks later. The theme of acceptance is presented in a touching story of friendship that is easy to read yet hard to forget.–Denise Moore, O'Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 5-8. Describing his encounters with Jessica Feeney, seventh-grader Tom Bender reflects, "On the outside it doesn't look like very much happened. A burned girl was in my class for a while. Once I brought her some homework. Then she was gone." The remainder of Firegirl considers the way outside appearances fail to portray the real story. Tom is overweight and unnoticed. Jessica Feeney, however, is impossible to ignore; a tragic fire has left horrible burns all over her body. The students at St. Catherine's avoid her, and they spread wild gossip about her. Tom's friend Jeff refuses to hold her hand during prayers. Yet Tom finds that from certain angles, Jessica almost looks like a regular girl, and by supporting her, however tentatively, he sacrifices everything he thought he wanted. In this poignant story, readers will recognize the insecurities of junior high and discover that even by doing small acts of kindness people stand to gain more than they lose. Nancy Kim
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

To begin with, I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and lived in a small house on top of a hill. Together, my mother, a school teacher, and my father, a returning World War II paratrooper pursuing his college studies, brought tons of books into our small house on Cliffview Road. I guess you could say that these books were my first introduction to the world of literature. My father was always writing, so the sound of the typewriter was like the background music of my early childhood.


When I was eight, we relocated, by car, to Connecticut where I finished elementary school and high school. I went to college at the University of Connecticut, majoring first in music (too hard), psychology (too many theories), and finally English (yes! lot and lots of books!). I graduated UConn with a bachelors degree in English Literature. After that, I traveled to Europe for quite a while, drank a lot of coffee, and wrote notebooks full of strange poetry. When I returned, I found work in a variety of bookstores and finally a library where I met my wife to be.


It was when I began reading bedtime stories to my children that the spark of writing I had had for so many years finally turned to children's books. After many failures, my first published book, Danger Guys, was written while taking a writing class with renowned children's author, Patricia Reilly Giff. That first book, and the series that it began, became the cornerstone of my writing career and has become something of a cult favorite, by virtue of its being difficult to find. Since then, I've written over seventy-five books for readers ages 6 to 14, including the cult favorit popular fantasy saga, The Secrets of Droon.


Over 8 million of my books have been sold worldwide, and my series and novels combined have been translated into Italian, Spanish, Korean, French, Japanese, Polish, Turkish, and Russian. Danger Guys was named a Children's Book-of-the-Month Club Main Selection, and the American Booksellers Association voted The Secrets of Droon among the "Top 10 List of Books to Read while Waiting for the Next Harry Potter." The series was also a Main Selection of the Children's Book-of-the-Month Club, and is on many school and library reading lists.


In 2007, my novel Firegirl won the Golden Kite Award for Fiction presented by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. It is the only award given by children's writers to children's writers, a peer award I remain honored at having received. It was also a selection of the Junior Library Guild.


In the Spring of 2008, my second novel for Little, Brown Books for Young Readers appeared. The Postcard is a comedy/mystery about a boy who finds a clue on an old postcard while cleaning his recently deceased grandmother's Florida house, and who has no choice but to follow the mystery wherever it leads. Among other things, The Postcard is my love song to Florida's Gulf Coast, where my grandparents lived, and to old Florida, its architecture, roadside attractions, and Wild-West origins. It is, not least, my homage to the great hardboiled tradition of Hammett and Chandler, translated to a Florida setting. The Postcard won the 2009 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Juvenile Mystery.

In 2009, The Haunting of Derek Stone, a series of four books for older readers, appeared from Scholastic Inc. Titles include: City of the Dead, Bayou Dogs, The Red House, and The Ghost Road.

My literary and cultural interests include the films of Preston Sturges, the Road pictures of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, and the Marx Brothers, and the writings of Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, P.G. Wodehouse, Jules Verne, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Seamus Heaney, Emily Dickinson, Ted Hughes, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, The Arabian Nights, Beowulf, James Thurber, Philip Roth, Ralph Ellison, and William Faulkner. I'm currently a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, the Yale Center for British Art, and other esteemed organizations. With my wonderful wife, two delightful and brilliant daughters, and the best dog imaginable, I live and work happily in Connecticut.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
5 star
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See all 75 customer reviews
Then I actually sat down and read "Firegirl".
E. R. Bird
Fire girl made me feel good and sad in many different ways and I hope that everyone feels that in their own special way!
HAPPY
This book serves up a powerful, poignant, moving story.
Joseph P. Corbett

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on June 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
When you are a children's librarian, like myself, you grow to stereotype certain authors without thought. For example, if you had walked up to me not too long ago and asked me to describe author Tony Abbott, I would've rambled off some well meaning dribble about the man's overwhelmingly successful, "Chronicles of Droon" series. "Droon" synthesizes everything I dislike about early chapter series fiction. So it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that I was skeptical when I heard that "Firegirl" was written by the same guy. My colleagues and I are currently in the process of reading all the best children's books of 2006, so it came as a shock to me when two of them started crooning in unison over Abbott's latest effort. In a fit of pique (not to mention a sort of I'll-show-them mentality) I volunteered to read the book next. I think my intention was to read it, hate it, and show everyone that Abbott was just a two-bit hack without a drop of writing credibility. Then I actually sat down and read "Firegirl". And to my shock I found it to be a dignified, touching, and remarkably SMART little work of fiction. Little, Brown and Company took a chance on seeing if Abbott had the writing chops to win over skeptics like myself. Their gamble will pay them back in spades.

The book only covers a couple of weeks, and as Tom himself says right from the start, "Stuff did get a little crazy for a while, but it didn't last long, and I think it was mostly in my head anyway". And it all happened when Jessica Feeney came to his class. Until she came Tom was a very regular seventh grader. He's a little plump, obsessed over a rare car called a Cobra, and daydreams regularly about saving the life of the girl of his dreams, Courtney. Then Jessica comes to his class.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on June 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
For Tom Bender, seventh grade isn't all that different from the grades that came before. He still attends a private Catholic school, St. Catherine's. He's still pretty much best friends with Jeff Hicks. He still loves the Cobra, a sports car that he spends plenty of time dreaming about. The few things that are different this year? He has great teacher, Mrs. Tracy. Jeff's uncle actually owns a Cobra, and Jeff has promised Tom a ride in it. He's in love with Courtney Zisky, a girl he fantasizes about saving from make-believe situations on a daily basis. Oh, and Jessica Feeney shows up in his classroom.

The day starts out regular enough. Morning prayers, the announcement of a class election, and the impending arrival of a new girl in their class. And then things change more than anyone could have ever imagined, because Mrs. Tracy informs her students that Jessica, the new girl, is unlike anyone they've ever met before. Jessica was burned in a fire, a terrible, horrible tragedy, and she looks different than anyone these kids have ever seen. Tom has only a short time to think about what this means before she's there, the Firegirl, hideously disfigured yet someone how still wholly alive.

What follows in the few short weeks that Jessica Feeney is in his class has a life-changing impact on Tom's life. His friend's jokes and elaborate stories they've made up for how Jessica got burned no longer seem funny. His daydreams keeping slipping Courtney out and Jessica in. And during the class election, where Tom wanted to nominate Courtney so she'd know how he felt about her, he's unable to say anything at all.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By B. Baker on November 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It only takes an hour or two to read but you will remember the way it made you feel. You want to be the person who would reach out to Jessica; it's not her fault that she is so disfigured that she is painful to look at. The kids in the class are real. There are kids who fear her, pity her and care about her. They are curious about how she got like this and make up stories to calm their own fears. But Jessica isn't just the burned girl she has a story too, she is keeping a secret.

The story is powerful but still appropriate for pre-teens.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on August 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
I love this book!!!! It is a must get! The book is mainly about this new girl in Tom's school who has been burned badly during a fire. Everyone stares at her and thinks she is strange, but Tom is liking her.
Advantages: I felt very connected to the book. It feels like you are in the shoes of the girl and of Tom.
Disadvantages: The book left you hanging at the end and was fairly short.But other than that it is GREAT!
Don't take my word for it read it yourself!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By CD on July 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
Tom is your typical middle-school boy. He is just a little rough around the edges, has a crush on the prettiest girl in class, and hangs out with a friend talking about cool cars and gross stuff. Then, a new girl comes to class for two weeks - two weeks that change who Tom is deep inside.

The new girl has been disfigured in a fire and has come to Tom's town for treatments. In this brief little story, Tom's inward character comes rising out of himself - often to his own surprise - as he resists the crowd's reactions to this poor girl.

The author doesn't create an overly heroic response. Instead he allows the reader to view a very realistic struggle...to want to be better than you are...yet still wrestle with a desire to be relieved of caring so much.

What an EXCELLENT novel! Everything isn't tidily resolved at the end. It's just a glimpse at the life-changing moments we face that shape our character.
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